DISH has owned CES in recent years with spectacular product reveals… and 2016 sees that trend continue with massive upgrades to their flagship DVR (that I first caught wind of back in September). The 3rd generation Hopper carries forward integrated Slingbox capabilities and (limited) commercial skip, as they introduce 4k support and jump to 16 tuners. Sixteen! DISH isn’t kidding when they declare “channel conflict eliminated” as this surely provides enough to handle all your satellite units during an evening of heavy recording plus some remote streaming.

Hopper_3_with_Voice_Remote

Continue Reading…

Pioneering Internet streaming service Sling TV has unveiled their upcoming interface refresh from CES. And our pal Brad Linder went hands on. Beyond recent guide presentation updates, the thrust of this transition is functional — with personalization taking center stage.

A new MyTV dashboard collates content you’ve previously flagged as Favorites, Recommended content based on viewership, and any On Demand programming you may have left in progress – so you can pick it up at another time or from another device. Further, On Now is a new customized guide presentation based on what you generally watch and when you watch it. Beyond these changes, Sling has also realized the UI does not need to be consistent amongst devices — what works on a touchscreen up close may not be suitable from a leanback experience. Not to mention navigation conventions vary by platform, say Xbox One versus Roku.

While the new approach does seem compelling and more interactive, at least in regards to Sling’s target millennial audience, it’s likely too visually rich and complex for my mom… who owns two Roku TVs and doesn’t particularly care for Comcast. Perhaps a future update could incorporate a slimmed down, “lite” mode with a more traditional presentation to expand Sling TV’s demographic to include seniors. In any event, Sling expects the multi-platform rollout to commence later this quarter.

By way of Com Hem, an international TiVo partner, the DVR pioneer appears poised to launch smart watch apps for remote control — citing both the Apple Watch and Android Wear platforms. Beyond replicating existing smartphone app functions, like changing channels as while browsing the live guide, TiVo indicates voice control is also on the docket… as alluded to last September.

Initially, these Dick Tracey-esque wrist interactions appear specific to Com Hem TiVo customers (and the apps are saddled with a ‘beta’ designation). Yet, with CES just kicking off, I suspect we could learn more about potential retail customer support within the next 48 hours.

As to other TiVo news from the Vegas trade show, an HBO GO announcement seems like a lock and I’m hopeful we’ll learn more of an OTA-only Bolt solution… with or without “Aereo” branding. Continue Reading…

T-Mobile’s innovative and contentious video streaming compromise took additional heat this week … when it was disclosed that YouTube, a non-Binge On partner, is being served to customers at 480p by default – irrespective of LTE speed and coverage. As to how many customers noticed the reduced quality on their own or are aware they can opt out of Binge On, we just don’t know.

Google’s YouTube complaint:

Reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn’t justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent

And T-Mobile’s response:

Using the term “throttle” is misleading. A better phrase is “mobile optimized” or a less flattering “downgraded” is also accurate.

I assume most consumers are satisfied with T-Mobile’s favorable rates over lesser quality cellularly-served video given the relatively small screens and abundance of WiFi. But it’ll be interesting to see if this runs afoul of FCC net neutrality guidance, should the situation escalate and despite their initial blessing.

Hack Thyself

Dave Zatz —  January 1, 2016 — 3 Comments

Like Chipotle and Honda before them… “Jessica Jones” took over Netflix’s Twitter account today.

As Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, continues to transition from MPEG-2 to more efficient MPEG-4 video delivery, TiVo is walking back plans to abandon legacy hardware.

Whereas TiVo Series 3 and HD owners were originally told (in dramatic fashion) to upgrade their DVRs (at a cost, of course), I assume the fear of significant stand-alone customer defections motivated the company to rethink their approach … and they’re now engineering a solution to retrofit TiVo HD hardware.

TiVo HD and TiVo HD XL: TiVo is working on a software update which will bring MPEG4 capability to TiVo HD DVRs. Customers can expect this update sometime in the first half of 2016.

The original Series 3 is still out of luck as far as MPEG4 goes and both platforms are smarting from the loss of Amazon and YouTube video. Yet, I’d wager that most these TiVo owners have had a great 7-10 year run — a span pretty much unheard of in this space.

(Thanks Mike!)

While it may be a few years before we once again “watch TV”, my new blessed reality clearly hasn’t slowed me from acquiring gadgets. So, although I missed out on Target’s limited Black Friday inventory, I just ordered Apple TV on sale from… RadioShack’s zombie corpse. This $120 deal drops $30 off MSRP and bundles an HDMI cable of unknown length and provenance.

appletv-deal

Of course, what sets the new Apple TV apart from its predecessors is a full-fledged and open (vs curated) app store along with a premium touch sensitive remote that also sports Siri voice control. Apple offers both 32GB and 64GB models, but the extra space doesn’t yet seem useful and the 32GB is probably suitable for most… for now. The Roku 2 (2015) is still the streamer I most frequently recommend given the broad app selection, simple but efficient interface, at a very attractive price point ($60-70). However, until or unless Roku migrates their platform to Android, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV offerings will potentially be richer and more capable.

(Thanks Bryan A!)

Where’s Dave?

Dave Zatz —  December 21, 2015 — 52 Comments

Yes, the blog has been quiet. And it’s likely my already low output will further decrease in the short-term as, after five long years…Eliana, our sweet, magical little miracle baby has arrived!

eliana

Despite working so hard towards this goal and the vast majority of our circle having children, we’ve clearly only understood parenthood on an abstract level — no matter how good our time management and organization, we’ll be playing catch up for quite awhile. But I couldn’t be happier about it. :)